Desmond “Desi” Relaford was born in Valdosta, Georgia on September 16, 1973. He was drafted as a 17 year-old, slick fielding, cannon armed shortstop out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 1991 MLB draft. Relaford worked his way through the Mariner’s minor league system relatively quickly for a high school draft pick and also picked up some hardware and accolades along the way. He was the youngest player in the league in each of his first three professional seasons. Relaford reached Double-A at the age of 19 and had made his first minor league all star game the previous year in the Carolina League ( 1992; HighSingle-A). He went on to make the California League All Star team (1994), Southern League All Star team (1995) and was named the International League’s most exciting player (1997).
Desi Relaford made his major league debut in August of 1996 with the Philadelphia Phillies from the Mariners after being traded for Terry Mulholland. Desi would finally stick in the big leagues in 1998 when he became the starting shortstop for the Phillies. He played shortstop primarily for the first four years of his big league career and then went on to become the game’s top super utility man. The Phillies traded Relaford to the San Diego Padres where he would finish out the 2000 season, but wasn’t offered a contract. Desi was picked up by the NY Mets and invited to big league camp, but with a minor league contract. That spring Desi beat the odds by making the team and went on to have one of the best seasons of his career by hitting .302, 8 HR, 27 doubles /0.00 ERA, 1K ( hitting 93 MPH on the radar gun), while exhibiting tremendous defense at three positions (SS,2B,3B). This was the beginning of the utility man persona that Relaford would begin to embrace for the remainder of his career.
Relaford was traded after the 2001 season with the Mets to San Francisco. Before he could ever don the orange of black of the bay area, Desi was traded back to his first home, Seattle, a month before the spring of 2002. This would be the year that he would earn the moniker “super utility man”. Desi started at every position except for first base, catcher, and pitcher. His versatility made him a valuable asset to his managers. His managers loved the fact that they could put Relaford anywhere and rest assured that the job would be done. I was given the Unsung Hero Award for the Seattle Mariners in 2002 by the Baseball Writers. Desi was a free agent after the 2002 season and had a few suitors. Relaford chose to sign a two year deal with the Kansas City Royals. 2003 was a career year for Desi as he set highs in all offensive categories except for batting average. Relaford was an every day starter, but no one knew what position he may be at on a particular day, or inning for that matter. He played so well in fact, that he won the starting job from the incumbent starter during the second half of the season. Being a starter in the big leagues is tough. Being a back up after being a starter is common. But becoming a starter again, after losing that title is a pretty rare and impressive feat.
Relaford would make a few more stops on his journey that included Colorado, Louisville, Syracuse, Oklahoma City and Texas)before it all came to an end. Desi finished playing in 2007 with the Texas Rangers, but he has been and still is involved in baseball. He has coached at all levels since leaving the diamond as a player, including; Little League, Travel Ball, High School College, and Professional (Cincinnati Reds 2018). He has traveled the world teaching baseball and wouldn’t have it any other way. He gets to meet new people and learn new cultures while teaching and playing the game we all love.